New Beginnings and New Ideas

Spring is a season of renewal, and rejuvenation which always feels imperative after a season of turning inward and reflecting. When springtime comes, I feel like I want to hang myself out on the clothes line and let my anxious mind, and my chilled bones be aired out by the cool spring breeze. It feels so refreshing to have a glimpse of spring, even if it's just a day or two of warmer weather, being able to open up the windows, let the fire die down and sit on the porch listening to the chorus of birds.

Right now, everything is wet. Every walkway, every field, every garden bed, everything! This has become quite frustrating for us because we are trying to prepare beds for spring. But instead they are mud piles, squishy mud and thick as glue! It’s time for a couple of very sunny and dry days, so we can clean out the grass from our newly tilled beds, prepare them, and then plow and disc our main field and our neighbors field in order to start planting and set out the irrigation. We are ready to get a move on it! I feel the excitement in my bones!

Currently we are tending our seed starts, our little chicks, and building rabbit hutches, farm stands, farm signs, fencing, painting bee hives, building tables, mulching, pruning fruit trees, planting trees, finishing our kitchen and more! It has been an amazingly productive year so far! When I think about how much we've accomplished, I think HOLY COW that's awesome and then I feel exhausted just thinking about it. Currently, we are preparing all of the structures that we will need throughout the year, as we wait for the ground to soak up the water and the plants to grow.

We are starting up the sign up process for weekly flower arrangement delivery CSA and the monthly Farmer's Hands to Table Supper Club. Both of these are services that can be subscribed, given as gifts, possibly done with work share. To explain a little more, we have include some more information about these services.

Flower CSA Membership

  • 12 week local and unique flower arrangement CSA.
  • (12 weeks) June 24th-September 23rd or (6 weeks) either June 24th to August 5th or August 5th to September 23rd
  • We grow special varieties of flowers to share with the community, and have unique country and playful arranging techniques. By supporting The Farmer's Hands Flower CSA you are supporting the passions of two young farmers and having the opportunity to provide yourself with fresh floral inspiration every week.
  • We always use flowers that we grow, but based on seasonality and availability. We supplement with unique greenery, leaves, dried flowers and woody plants when necessary.
  • The CSA will run from June 24th to September 23rd
  • Deliveries will happen on Wednesdays
  • Value of arrangements will average at about 15-20 dollars a week
  • Pay for arrangements plus a delivery fee to make up a full membership rate
  • Please provide us with a drop off location at your home that is shaded and protected from wind for the arrangement to be delivered.
  • The vases with the arrangements are rentals (therefore you must leave vases in your drop off location for us to pick up the following week)
  •  if you live farther than 20 minutes circumference around Asheville please email us and ask before purchasing

For more information check out our Flower CSA webpage

"The Farmer's Hands to Table" Supper Club

  • "The Farmer's Hands to Table" Supper Club will happen the third Saturday of the month
  • Reservations close the Monday before the Saturday event for preparation purposes
  • Meals are served family style, outside at our farm tables, under string lights and a canopy of leaves
  • Please make us aware of any food allergies at least 2 weeks before the event.
  • This is a dinner CSA, the purchase of a ticket enables us to buy seeds, grow vegetables and flowers and helps us create these wonderful events. By supporting The Farmer's Hands to Table dinner CSA you are supporting the passions of two young farmers to create a hand made life that they want to share with the world.

Some of the basics about the event:

  • BYOB
  • No dogs
  • No children under 13 
  • We will have a bonfire in our fire pit going during events
  • Our farm stand will be open during events where you can purchase vegetables, fruits, flowers, and eggs. Availability will vary based on seasonality.
  • By purchasing this ticket you are buying a share in The Farmer's Hands Homestead, and you are purchasing vegetables and flowers from our farm. This ticket is not payment for a service (that is our donation). 
  • Reimbursement policy-if event is canceled you get a credit for another dinner as reimbursement
  • Rain Policy: if it rains, we will reschedule for the following week

For more information check out our the Farm Dinners webpage

Rustic Candle Holder

Here’s another great and simple idea for a gift. Find a nice log or a thick branch, using  a hand plane, flatten the bottom just enough so that it sits flat and doesn’t roll around, but not so much that you loose the natural shape of the wood. Then use a 1.5 inch flat drill bit to cut round holes in the top. These will be exactly large enough to fit a votive candle. Attach it, or not, to a nice piece of wood, add some felt pads to the bottom so it doesn’t scratch your table and presto, rustic elegance! I will be making more of these and they will be up in the store in the very near future.

Lavender Dream Pillows and Home Made Tea

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‘Tis the season! And what’s better than some home made gifts? Here are two really easy and fun ideas for home made gifts that are economical, pretty, and will give the receiver lots of joy. 

 

The first idea is for a lavender dream pillow. This is quite simply a piece of cloth, like a nice handkerchief, that is filled with lavender and then tied off with string. We have a few around the house and in our cars, but they are best kept in your pillow case, where you can smell the lavender as you fall asleep. Lavender is great for relaxing and promoting a feeling of calm, so it’s really nice to breath in the scent of lavender at bedtime. We grew all the lavender ourselves and found some vintage handkerchiefs at the Goodwill to use for this project. 

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The other idea is to give your friends and loved ones some home grown tea. You can make tea from just about anything, mint, holy basil, raspberry leaves, stinging nettle, the list goes on and on. We grew lots and lots of mint and holy basil this year and have been drying it in the pantry since harvest time. To make the tea, you simply remove the leaves and flowers form the dried stems and give them a buzz in a food processor. Place them in a jar and make a nice label, and presto, you have a gift of home made tea! To drink, just put some of the dried leaves in a tea ball or tea bag, add some hot water and steep till it’s the strength you like. 

 

As a kid living in Africa, we would drink lots of mint tea that was really really sweet. The guys making it would pour it back and forth between cups, holding their arms at great lengths from each other, to properly mix and aerate the tea. It was super tasty and really cooling and energizing on a hot day. 

 

Holy basil is really healthy and kind of amazing, as it’s an adaptogen, meaning that it will help you adapt to both physical and mental stress!  Holy basil, also know also Tulsi, imparts strength, energy, mental clarity, and stamina. Overall it's an amazing tea to drink whenever you are feeling stressed or you just need a bit of a pick me up.

Super Simple Apple Tart

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We went to Ariel’s parents for dinner the other night, as we do at least once a week, which is really one of my favorite times of the week, and we usually make desert. This week I was short on time, but I still wanted to make something tasty, and it had to be quick and easy. So I thought a really simple apple tart made with frozen puff pastry would be just the ticket.

 

Ingredients:

5 apples, I used Granny Smiths

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

splash of bourbon (optional)

juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp apricot jam

 

Pre heat your oven to 400 degrees. I used a shallow cast iron pan lined with parchment paper, but you can also use a cookie sheet lined with parchment. 

 

Peel and core the apples then slice them as thin as you can, if you have a mandolin, this is the time to use it. Toss the apples with the powdered sugar ( I used powdered because it has corn starch in it, and that will help keep the apples together once baked, but you can use regular sugar as well), lemon juice, salt, vanilla, and the bourbon. Let this marinate while you roll out the puff pastry.

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The puff pastry is usually workable after about 30 minutes outside the freezer, don’t let it get warm or you will have a nearly impossible time rolling it out, just let it defrost enough so you can unfold it. Roll it out on a floured surface, so it doesn’t stick, till you can cut out a 10-11 inch circle. Roll the edge back on itself to create a lip, this will hold in the juices from the apples. Move the pastry to your pan or cookie sheet.

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Drain the juice off the apples, too much juice will leak out and because this tart is baked at high temperatures, it will burn. Place the apples on the pastry. Sprinkle the top with brown sugar and dot with the butter. 

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Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is brown and crisp. While the tart is baking, warm the apricot jam, and as soon as the tart comes out of the oven, brush the top with the jam to create a nice glaze. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Over Wintered

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I was just at our local farm stand and they had a bin full of onion sets! Onion sets are basically baby onions that you plant and will grow into full size onions. They are usually pretty cheap, less than two bucks a pound, and are really easy to plant and grow. We grew quite a few onions this spring, and are still enjoying those, but I don’t think its enough to tie us through the winter, and these aren’t going to help that situation much, as they will establish themselves over the next few weeks, before it gets too cold, and then go dormant till it warms again in spring, at which point they will be ready to harvest pretty quickly.

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We will be covering them in low lying row cover to keep them as warm as we can and hopefully we will have a few baby onions and scallions to play with this winter.

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Our Pantry, Part 1

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I’ve always dreamt of having a pantry. A room full of shelves lined with colorful jars filled with all sorts of fruits, veggies, sauces, condiments and other concoctions. A room where things are aging, and fermenting, and changing, like some culinary laboratory. A room full of possibilities, a room that evokes a sense of comfort and a sense of reassurance, quietly letting you know that there will always be something to eat, drink, and enjoy; all made with your hands from product you grew! 

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So when we started looking for a homestead to buy, we knew it had to have a space for a pantry, and we have an ideal room. Its in the middle of the house, right off the kitchen, where it never gets to hot, too cold, or too sunny. We added shelves and a drying rack to the space this spring and have been working hard all spring, summer, and fall to fill those shelves with canned veggies and fruits, jams and salsas, hot sauces, tinctures, dried herbs and flowers, wine, mead, beer, kombucha, and a few more tasty and medicinal treats. We are very proud of everything me made and will be enjoying them all over the coming winter. It’s a little bittersweet to know that we will have to wait till next spring before we can get going again on canning and preserving, but by then the shelves should be pretty bare, and the cycle will start all over again.

Fall

Fall is here! The leaves around these mountains are slowly fading towards rich, warm colors and that feeling that you only get in fall is starting to get stronger. That feeling of wanting to be home, with family, friends and a cup of tea while watching the leaves fall and the whole world seemingly fall asleep. Its a feeling of slowing down and contentment that I look forward to every year. BUT! That doesn't mean there isn't still a ton to do round the farm….

Last night we had our first frost scare; we covered all of our garden with row cover and made it through the night safely. The main crop we we're concerned about were the sweet potatoes, as they cannot take even a little bit of frost, so we harvested our sweet potatoes and ended up with close to a hundred pounds! Not bad at all, now for a few weeks of curing to convert the starches to sugars, and we will be neck deep in sweet potato pie, casserole, soup, and whatever other tasty treats we will come up with.

We also continued to clean up the garden beds from the last of the summer crops; drying the holy basil, fennel, transplanting the lemongrass, and harvesting peppers and husk tomatoes. Stay tuned for a great recipe for husk tomato jam!!

There is a chill in the air, but by the afternoon it has warmed up and is quite pleasant outside while working in the sun. We are welcoming the fall, now that we are fully stocked with fire wood, have our chimneys swept and have a chest freezer full of wild and local meats, and fruit and vegetables.